A Surge in Teenage Pregnancy Deaths Raises Alarms in Kenya

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Женщины племени масаи во время ритуала посвящения младших воинов в городе Каджиадо - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.05.2022
A report filed by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and the National Aids Control Council (NACC) revealed that between January 2020 and September 2021, at least nine counties in the East African country of Kenya were responsible for 56% of pregnancies in girls aged 10-14 out of the nation’s total.
There were at least 20,803 childhood pregnancies reported by the NCPD and the NACC in the country of Kenya between January 2020 and September 2021.
The counties which made up those adolescent pregnancies included: Nairobi, Kajiado, Homa Bay, Meru, Kericho, Narok, Kisii, Mandera, and Bomet. Nairobi made up 6.4% of Kenya’s childhood pregnancies in girls aged 15-19.
The rise in teenage pregnancy is believed to be linked to school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sex education one receives at home may not be on par with the sex education one receives at school.
Lack of access to sex education and reproductive health services in Kenya is a primary reason for the spike in adolescent pregnancies.
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In 2021, there were roughly 104 maternal deaths among girls aged 10-19 years old in Kenya. That number is a major spike from the 31 maternal deaths that were recorded in the country during the previous year.
A 2017 Kenyan study on maternal deaths revealed that at least 9% of women who died in hospitals while giving birth were teenagers.
Health and Education ministries are now creating an educational guidebook titled “Understanding Adolescence: A guide for adolescents” in an attempt to help children and adolescents understand pregnancy, HIV/Aids, as well as violence against women.
The guidebook also includes topics such as coping with emotional, social, or physical changes, healthy relationships, communication, mental health, STDs, and drug and substance abuse.

“As a parent of adolescents, the book makes my life easier as a reference document that I can share with my son and daughter and convey the correct information on various topics,” said Dr. Patrick Amoth, the acting Director General for Health in Kenya's Ministry of Health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pregnancy and childbirth complications among those aged 15-19 are the leading cause of death for girls in that age bracket worldwide.
Efforts to prevent teenage pregnancies have been met with an antiquated pushback by conservative politicians and religious groups who think that children who are already having sex and getting pregnant—as well as impregnating—from doing so will somehow have more sex if they learn appropriate contraceptive use.
Sex education under the influence of politics has tended to focus on abstinence-based sex education. Two scientific review papers published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health” found teaching abstinence-only-until-marriage to be a complete failure both scientifically and ethically when teaching adolescents about reproductive health.
“The weight of scientific evidence shows these programs do not help young people delay initiation of sexual intercourse,” says researcher John Santelli, professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “While abstinence is theoretically effective, in actual practice, intentions to abstain from sexual activity often fail. These programs simply do not prepare young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.”
According to these researchers, an abstinence-based approach to sexual education is not only ineffective, but also violates adolescent human rights, withholds medically accurate information from teenagers, and stigmatizes as well as excludes children who do not fit into the heteronormative agenda.
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